By Chally Kacelnik
At LKS Quaero, one of the things our clients engage us to work on is reviewing and updating their procedures. Procedures tend to sit in the “it’s important, but on the backburner” basket, with an undertone of “this is nitty gritty detailed work that’s going to require more capacity than we currently have,” plus a side order of “there’s a few different versions of this sitting around and it’s going to be a headache to untangle”.
But, at the end of the day, you need to get that corporate knowledge documented and readily understood by everyone who needs it, and you need to conform with legal requirements when it comes to human resources processes or work health and safety management. As a certified nerd for nitty gritty work like this, I find it satisfying to turn procedures with different formats and content that mostly makes sense to subject matter experts into consistent, simple, and navigable documents that make it clear what you need to do at a glance.
Here are some of the improvements we recommend, as general principles:
- Heading each procedure with a dot point summary of “what you must know”. This gives people an understanding at a glance of what the document is about and what section to go to for something specific
- A documentation table indicating the who, what, when, and where of submissions of forms and other documents referenced in a given procedure – like permits or logs
- Definitions of key terms – it’s not sufficient to assume that everyone will pick up on that acronym or that technical term
- Consistent branding and formatting. This helps with a consistent form of your procedures for better understanding, but additionally the sense of ownership and official status nudges people to comply with the procedure
- A focused purpose. The purpose of the document is not to outline the steps to do x, the purpose is a one sentence statement about what you want to achieve by doing x
- Consistent, streamlined language across your procedures. You’re aiming for clarity and conciseness, with plain language that can be understood by everyone who uses the document
- Make accountabilities clear: who is doing what? Assign these to roles, not individuals – if you’re reliant on that one person who knows how to do a task sticking around, you’ve got key person risk
- Currency of references. Check the references to your organisational structure and role titles are up to date – and your procedures shouldn’t assume that a particular person will occupy their role indefinitely. Check those references to legislation, standards, codes of practice, and so forth are up to the minute, and that your procedures conform with legal requirements and sector best practice
- Maintain a versioning table, with dated comments on any updates
Don’t forget to maintain a procedure review schedule, either. With discipline and consistency in your approach to procedures, you’ll instill the same in how your organisation undertakes work.